When John Courtmanche was fired from his part-time consulting job in the New Haven school system, there was some suspicion that his job cut was tied to his support of state Sen. Martin Looney in this year’s mayoral race. But a few months later, it appears that Courtmanche’s firing was part of school reorganization, and the termination of his position a week after the primary was coincidental.
Courtmanche was a principal at various New Haven schools for 21 years. As a retired school administrator, he was hired two years ago to work without benefits for a maximum of 19 hours per week.
Catherine DeCarlo, a spokeswoman for Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo, said Mayo’s decision to hire seasoned administrators as consultants has saved the district money for the past few years. She added that the position has since been eliminated because of the need for a full-time replacement.
“We have a lot of after school programs and received a federal grant to expand these programs,” she said.
DeCarlo declined to comment on any possible connections between Courtmanche’s job loss and his support of Looney.
Julio Gonzalez ’99, executive assistant to Mayor John DeStefano Jr., said the cut was unrelated to DeStefano’s reelection.
“Our position is that it was an administrative decision made by the superintendent that made sense for the school,” Gonzalez said. “The superintendent was doing his job.”
Courtmanche is not convinced of the separation of the school system and politics in New Haven, but was unwilling to say that he lost his job because he supported DeStefano’s opponent. Courtmanche is a longtime friend of Looney and said he never tried to hide his support.
“I was told by many people that I could lose my job,” he said. “These were people who know the city well.”
Courtmanche said some city employees did not want their names on documents showing their support for Looney.
“But I respect that, because for many people, their city jobs are their livelihood,” he said. “This was just a part-time job, but of course I’m suspicious.”
But Courtmanche did not say he is certain he lost his job because he supported Looney. In fact, he said he felt he was previously quoted out of context as saying his support of Looney “absolutely” played a role in his removal.
Looney said that although Mayo said he wanted to replace Courtmanche with a full-time administrator, Mayo has not yet posted the job, claiming a need to reorganize its details.
“If the job is not posted, why was Courtmanche fired already?” Looney said.
Looney said that of the administrators with positions like Courtmanche’s, he was the only one fired and the only one who was an active supporter of Looney’s campaign. He added that Courtmanche’s support may have led to his termination.
“The circumstances would certainly tend in that direction,” Looney said.
Courtmanche’s part-time position was not contracted, and he earned about $20,000 each year. He retired after 34 years in the New Haven school system and took the administrative job to supplement his retirement income. The school system had eight or nine other such administrative positions for retired school employees.
“The job was a nice arrangement,” Courtmanche said. “We performed a good service with the experience we brought.”